Ave Maria University students were recently approved for an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Executive Council, a group of “hand-selected student leaders…who—with funding and resources from AEI—promote campus dialogue surrounding free enterprise and American leadership.” AMU’s council is one of thirty approved for the 2014-2015 academic year.
The American Enterprise Institute states on its website that it is “a community of scholars committed to expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity, and strengthening free enterprise.” A number of Ave Maria University students have interned with AEI in the past, and AMU graduate Lilla Lukacs (’14) currently works at AEI as an Economic Policy Research Assistant.
Joseph Doherty, a senior double-majoring in Mathematics andPolitical Economy and Government, serves as Chair of the Executive Council at AMU. When asked how he got involved with AEI, Doherty replied, “I originally heard about the American Enterprise Institute from Ambassador Michael Novak, who worked as an AEI scholar for over thirty years. The reason I started an AEI Executive Council on Ave Maria University’s campus was to direct the resources of AEI to the students here. There is a tremendous potential for young Catholics to work and implement their studies in the world of public policy.”
Doherty continued: “I see this group as an opportunity for AMU students to take what they are learning in the classroom regarding economics and politics and to become educated regarding the intersection of the two in public policy.” The AEI Executive Council makes AEI resources, such as videos, articles and books, available to students on campus. They also host speakers throughout the year and arrange for leadership dinners. Last semester, twenty-five students and five faculty members attended a leadership dinner that featured keynote speaker Michael Novak.
Both Doherty and the council’s Events Director, Kathleen Mullally, attended an AEI leadership conference in Washington, D.C. While at the conference, Mullally, who is a senior double-majoring in Economics and Classics, heard AEI’s President and AMU’s 2015 Commencement Speaker, Arthur Brooks, articulate the vision of AEI. She thought that what he said about “working with what is in your heart and trying to communicate it to other people’s brains” and “serving others in the spirit of global brotherhood” tied in well with the vision behind Service Learning and the Mother Teresa Project at Ave Maria University. At AEI, there is so much emphasis on research “for the benefit of people with less power,” she said. “They work to lift up the vulnerable.”
“I think this is very important,” Angela Winkels added. Winkels is an AMU senior and Faculty Relations Director for the Executive Council. “It was very easy for me to start siding with Christian socialism, or agrarianism, with the idea, ‘Oh I want to help the poor,’ and the assumption that certain policies are more charitable than others. But there are practical realities about how the economy works. AEI has repeatedly shown the correlation of capitalism with raising people out of poverty.”
Over the course of the year, the AEI student group has hosted screenings of the Acton Institute’s PovertyCure, a video series on economy and poverty in the developing world, followed by comments and discussion. They have also been hosting “Pizza and Policy” nights for students to come together and discuss current policy issues. “So many people are ignorant about what’s going on in world,” Mullally said, “or they are discouraged by the news and don’t want to get involved. I want to get more students involved in the discussion.”
“We have the potential to take students studying economics and politics,” Doherty concluded, “and to produce influential policy makers, making AMU a center for Catholic thought in public policy.”